Study: Frontline COVID-19 Health Care Workers in China Suffer Psychological Burden

March 24, 2020
Sydney Jennings
Sydney Jennings

Frontline medical workers dealing with COVID-19 in China have a high risk of developing symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress.

Frontline medical workers dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak are at a high risk for developing unfavorable psychological outcomes, suggests a new study published March 23, 2020 inJama Network Open.

In the cross-sectional, survey-based, region stratified study, researchers collected responses on a battery of mental health measurements from 1257 health care workers in 34 Chinese hospitals between January 29, 2020 and February 3, 2020.

Medical workers in hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 were included in the study.

Of the participants, 64.7% were aged 26-40 years and 76.7% were women. Most of the respondents were nurses (60.8%) and 39.2% were physicians; 60.5% worked in hospitals in Wuhan, and 41.5% were frontline medical workers, ie, directly involved in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients with COVID-19.

The most reported mental health symptoms among respondents was distress (71.5%), followed by depression (50.4%), anxiety (44.6%), and insomnia (34.0%).

Nurses, women, frontline health care workers, and those working in Wuhan (the region where the COVID-19 outbreak began) reported more severe measurements of mental health symptoms vs other medical workers included in the study. Furthermore, researchers found that being a woman with an intermediate technical title was linked to severe depression, anxiety, and distress.

It should be noted, however, that due to the majority of respondents being women, the result may have been skewed.

A multivariate logistic regression analysis also showed that participants outside Hubei province were associated with lower risk of experiencing mental health symptoms vs those in Wuhan (odds ratio, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.43-0.88; P=.008).

Working in the front line was found to be an independent risk factor for worse mental health outcomes across all cohorts.

The researchers urged the development of special interventions to promote mental wellbeing in health care workers exposed to COVID-19.

“Special interventions to promote mental well-being in health care workers exposed to COVID-19 need to be immediately implemented, with women, nurses, and frontline workers requiring particular attention,” concluded authors.

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